Did you get married this year? YAY!!! But here’s the thing, you have to tell me. It matters.
I have been pretty shocked by the number of people who come to me and tell me they are married, but it doesn’t matter for their taxes. “We keep all our accounts separate” or “We didn’t get married until October” or “I don’t know about his stuff.” I’ve heard this from people in their mid-twenties all the way up to mid-seventies. And my jaw never fails to hit my desk.
If you are married on the last day of the year, you MUST FILE YOUR TAXES AS MARRIED. You might file jointly, or you might file separately, but you must file as married and provide your spouse’s information on your return.
Why? Our system of taxation has always included some social engineering, and marriage has been considered a social good from the dawn of time. There are incentives all over the tax code that reward marriage. In addition I think the IRS really likes it when couples file jointly, since one return is easier to manage than two. On the other hand, the tax code also exists to generate revenue to fund the government. So there are some rules that restrict what married couples can do if they choose to file separately.
Most couples benefit from filing jointly, especially if they have children. But overall the tax difference between filing jointly and separately has narrowed significantly since the big changes that took effect in 2018. Even so, I need to know if you get married, and yep, it matters!